Bishop Kukah: Politics in Nigeria is almost like armed banditry

2012-10-26 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Among the participants at the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation is Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto in northern Nigeria. The nation is Africa's largest oil producer but is blighted by huge poverty, widespread corruption and recurring ethnic and sectarian violence. He spoke to Vatican Radio's Susy Hodges.

Listen to the extended interview with Bishop Matthew Kukah:

In a wide-ranging interview the Nigerian bishop looks at the ideas he will be taking home from the Synod and discusses the many challenges facing his country including the problem of poor governance, violence and high levels of corruption. Asked about the threat posed by the radical Islamic group Boko Haram, Bishop Kukah says he believes that both the Western and local media,when reporting on violence in Nigeria, put "too much emphasis" on the sectarian element by focussing too much "on our identities as Moslems and as Catholics."

At the same time Bishop Kukah says the Nigerian government is not using the right approach for resolving the violent campaign waged by Boko Haram by sending soldiers out onto the streets. "The Nigerian political class," he adds, "has hidden its incompetence by simply presenting the problem as a law and order issue, it's not." He goes on to say that by calling out the military, "the government is diminishing democracy" in Nigeria and is failing to tackle the roots of the problem and the need for dialogue to end the conflict.

Many people have also criticised the violent and heavy-handed approach by the military in trying to flush out the Boko Haram militants and Bishop Kukah agrees with those criticisms: "Ordinary people," he says, are saying we are actually suffering more from the military than from Boko Haram" ... "it's become like an army of occupation."

When it comes to the problem of poor governance, Bishop Kukah says the country is blighted by "monumental corruption." He goes on to say: "Politics in Nigeria is almost like armed banditry" ... as the price is so high and because "a climate of impunity has become so predominant."